Category Archives: Information

GitHub Reinstated YouTube-dl and will Overhaul DMCA Reviews



GitHub announced that they reinstated youtube-dl after receiving additional information about the project that enabled GitHub to reverse a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown. As a result, GitHub has created a developer-focused approach that requires specific steps that will be performed before any takedown claim is processed.

TechCrunch reported that in October, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent a DMCA complaint to GitHub over YouTube-dl. The project allowed viewers to download YouTube videos for offline viewing. The RIAA said that this circumvented DRM and promoted the piracy of several popular songs.

As a result, GitHub took down YouTube-dl because platforms like it have to comply with laws. In their blog post, GitHub noted: “DCMA takedown claims based on circumvention are a growing, industry-wide issue for developers with far-reaching implications.” There was also another problem:

Section 1201 dates back to the late 1990s and did not anticipate the various implications it has for software use today. As a result, Section 1201 makes it illegal to use or distribute technology (including source code) that bypasses technical measures that control access or copying of copyrighted works, even if that technology can be used in a way that would not be copyright infringement.

GitHub states that it received information that showed the youtube-dl project does not in fact violate the DMCA’s anticircumvention prohibitions. GitHub concluded that the allegations did not establish a violation of the law. As a result, GitHub reinstated the youtube-dl project.

There is a detailed list of things that GitHub is changing in their effort to overhaul their 1201 claim review process. They are doing this at their own cost and at no cost to the developers who use GitHub.

To me, these changes could prevent the RIAA from having a DMCA takedown request immediately acted upon. It also sounds like the changes enable GitHub to do some investigating about the validity of the RIAA claim before taking action.


Homes Need Disruption and Innovation



I hate decorating. I really hate decorating. It’s not that I’m lazy or I don’t want my home to look good. It’s just so….primitive. There have been all these advances in science, technology and medicine but when it comes to our homes, we’re content to throw some paint on the wall like Stone Age cave art. Prefer wallpaper? It originated in China before becoming popular in Europe during the 15th century, and as for tiles, the Romans were a dab hand at mosaics 2,000 years ago. All modern innovations then.

Decorating’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pig as homes are so badly designed and built. Fundamentally, houses haven’t changed in over a couple of centuries but I’ll give you central heating and cavity walls if you really want. Let’s take a look at the average UK home and the ways they’re bodged to meet an acceptable standard.

  • plastering – a house can’t be built with straight walls or a good finish so we have to trowel plaster on top to make it look acceptable.
  • skirting boards – the walls don’t meet the floor neatly so we have to use skirting boards to hide the messy join.
  • tiles – they’re stuck on so permanently they have to be smashed to get them off and it’s back to plastering.
  • doorframes – all the fancy woodwork around a door because we can’t figure out how to put a hole in a wall without it being a mess.
  • central heating – a boiler heats hot water to 60C to pass through radiators to then heat the air in a room to 20C. How can that be efficient? – just heat the air directly, and there’s far less mess if there’s a leak.
  • light switches, light fittings and power sockets – can’t move them without specialists and then you have to decorate all over again once they’ve made a mess.

Domestic homes are junk. I’ve seen better designed Lego buildings. Businesses didn’t put up with the inflexibility and got air management, raised floors, suspending ceilings and trunking.

Of course, it’s all down to vested interests. For the UK, the British Coatings Federation reckons paint is a £3.2 billion industry of which 65% is decorative. The UK plumbing industry is £17bn. If ever there was a market ripe for disruption and innovation it’s the domestic housing market. Builders build as many homes as they can as cheaply as possible and there’s such a shortage of new homes in the UK that they can get away with it.

I’m not asking for a “smart home”, but a flexible quality structure that better meets the needs of people in the 21st century. How about it Apple? Design a better home….that sounds right up your street.


The Citizen Browser Project Measures How Disinformation Travels



Have you ever wondered how algorithms are affecting the spread of misinformation on social media? There’s a project that was designed with that question in mind. The Citizen Browser Project is an initiative designed to measure how disinformation travels across social media platforms over time.

At the center of The Citizen Browser Project is a custom web browser designed by The Markup to audit the algorithms that social media platforms use to determine what information they serve their users, what news and narratives are amplified or suppressed, and which online communities those users are encouraged to join. Initially, the browser will be implemented to glean data from Facebook and YouTube.

A nationally representative panel of 1,200 people will be paid to install the custom web browser on their desktops, which allows them to share real-time data directly from their Facebook and YouTube accounts with The Markup. Data collected from this panel will form statistically valid samples of the American population across age, race, gender, geography, and political affiliation, which will lead to important insights about how Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms operate.

To protect the panel’s privacy, The Markup will remove personally identifiable information collected by the panel and discard it, only using the remaining redacted data in its analyses.

Personally, I find this to be very interesting. It isn’t something I can participate in, because I stopped using Facebook years ago and refuse to go back to it. That said, people who use both Facebook and YouTube could choose to participate in the The Citizen Browser Project – and get paid to do so.

I’ve always believed that we need more than a promise from social media companies that they are doing their best to prevent the spread of misinformation. We need an outside source, like The Citizen Browser Project, to collect data that will show not only how much misinformation is on those platforms, but how it the algorithms of the platforms are enabling the spread of misinformation.


Xiaomi Launches Mi 10T Smartphone Series



Today Xiaomi has announced three handsets in the new Mi 10T smartphone range: the Mi 10T Pro, 10T and 10T Lite, along with Xiaomi’s first global smart watch, the Mi Watch.

2020 is Xiaomi’s 10th anniversary and it has some impressive stats for a company this young. 344 million smart phone users and it’s now the #3 smartphone brand in Europe behind Apple and Samsung. To be honest, when you see the specs and prices below for the new Mi 10T series, it’s not entirely surprisingly

Looking at the specs, the Mi 10T Pro is undoubtedly a flagship phone – 5G, fast processor, loads of memory and massive megapixel camera – and Xiaomi is focussing on the creative abilities of their phones with features like easy long exposures for fantastic looking effects and AI Skyscaping to add moving skies and effects to static photographs. There’s also some impressive effects merging photos and videos together so that one person can appear many times in a single picture or video, and Dual Video records from both front and back cameras at the same time. These are just a few of the features that #PowerYourCreativity.

Yes, there are some things missing that you might expect from a flagship phone, such as wireless charging and an in-display fingerprint sensor, but they’ve focussed on the things that matter and it’s priced much lower than the competition.

For the other phones in the series…the 10T Pro and 10T look identical with any differences on the inside with a lesser camera in the 10T. The 10T Lite shares the same design language but is clearly a different phone: the camera array on the rear is different and the pin hole camera is in a different position. All the new phones have refresh rates at 144 Hz for the 10T and 10T Pro, and 120 Hz for the 10T Lite. ActiveSync technology smartly matches content framerate to screen refresh rate to give the best possible viewing experience.

The full specs are available on-line for detailed examination but the main highlights are:

10T Pro

  • 6.67” FHD+ with 144 Hz AdaptiveSync display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Kryo 585 CPU, Octa-core CPU, up to 2.84 GHz, paired with Adreno 650 GPU)
  • LPDDR5 RAM, UFS 3.1 storage with either 8GB+128GB or 8GB+256GB
  • 5,000 mAh  high-capacity battery, 33W wired fast charging
  • 108MP + 13MP + 5MP triple rear camera: 108MP ultra-clear primary camera with OIS, 13MP ultra-wide angle camera with 123° field of view, 5MP macro camera AF (2cm-10cm)
  • 20MP in-display selfie camera
  • Colours are Cosmic Black, Lunar Silver, Aurora Blue
  • Price starts at 599 €

10T

  • 6.67” FHD+ with 144 Hz AdaptiveSync display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Kryo 585 CPU, Octa-core CPU, up to 2.84 GHz, paired with Adreno 650 GPU)
  • LPDDR5 RAM, UFS 3.1 storage with either 6GB+128GB or 8GB+128GB
  • 5,000 mAh  high-capacity battery, 33W wired fast charging
  • 64MP + 13MP + 5MP triple rear camera: 64MP wide-angle camera, 13MP ultra-wide angle camera with 123° field of view, 5MP macro camera AF (2cm-10cm)
  • 20MP in-display selfie camera
  • Colours are Cosmic Black, Lunar Silver
  • Price starts at 499 €

10T Lite

  • 6.67” FHD+ with 120 Hz AdaptiveSync display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G (Kryo 570 CPU, Octa-core CPU, up to 2.2 GHz, paired with Adreno 619 GPU
  • LPDDR4X RAM, with either 6GB+64GB (UFS 2.1) or 6GB+128GB (UFS 2.2)
  • 4,820 mAh  high-capacity battery, 33W wired fast charging
  • 64MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP quad rear camera: 64MP wide-angle camera, 8MP ultra-wide angle camera with 120° field of view, 2MP macro camera FF 4cm, 2MP depth sensor
  • 16MP in-display selfie camera
  • Colours are Atlantic Blue, Pearl Gray, Rose Gold Beach
  • Price starts at 279 €

Moving away from the Mi 10T smartphones, the Xiaomi Mi Watch is the company’s first global smartwatch. Unlike the rectangular Mi Band, the Mi Watch has a round 1.39” AMOLED display with a 454 x 454 pixels supporting over 100 different watch faces.

The Mi Watch has 117 fitness modes and offers 24/7 monitoring of many physiological measures such as  heart rate tracking and  blood oxygen level monitoring, with additional indicators on sleep cycles, stress levels and energy levels.

The Mi Watch has GPS, a compass and a barometer for outdoor pursuits that cover large areas or height changes, and with 5 ATM water resistance it’s ready for any weather, surface watersports and swimming.

Powered by a 420mAh battery, the Mi Watch gets up to 16 days of battery life on just two hours of charge and there’s a magnetic charging dock to make charging easy. As expected, there’s a complementary app that records all the data from the Mi Watch and there’s voice control courtesy of Amazon Alexa.

The Xiaomi Mi Watch is priced at just 99 €.


Google Nest Hub gets Disney+



Disney+ launched not long ago (November 12, 2019 to be precise) and it has a lot of content, that isn’t just for children, although there is plenty of that. After all, these parks also cater to adults and so to do the movies and TV shows on its network. The company built by Mickey has come a long way.

With a subscription, you get all of the content, from the animated movies from Disney and Pixar to things like Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and others.

The company claims it’s as easy as “Say, ‘Hey Google, play “The Mandalorian’ on Disney+” to start streaming instantly. You can also already cast Disney+ from your compatible mobile devices to your Nest Smart Displays and Assistant-enabled devices by opening the streaming service’s mobile app and tapping the Cast icon, or stream anytime on your Android TV.”

Google also announces that Otterbox has created a way to make your device look like Mickey Mouse, just to fit with the new Disney+ feature.

In addition, the search giant has released “Frozen” entertainment for everyone. “Join some of your ‘Frozen’ favorites –Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff — around the campfire as they tell legends exploring the world of ‘Frozen 2.’ You can hear these stories on Google Assistant-enabled Android and iOS phones, smart speakers and Smart Displays. To get started, just say, “Hey Google, tell me a ‘Frozen’ story” and you can pick which character you’d like to narrate.”

If you have one of these devices and a Disney+ subscription then you can get started right now.


UK Government to Bar Telecoms from Buying Huawei Equipment



The UK government will bar telecom companies from purchasing new equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co., The Wall Street Journal reported. The telecom companies have until 2027 to remove Huawei technology from their 5G networks.

Senior executives from Vodafone Group PLC and BT Group PLC told a parliamentary committee last week that a five-to-seven-year time frame would be needed to remove Huawei equipment to avoid disruption. But a group of Conservative lawmakers has been pressing the government to remove the equipment at a faster pace.

One thing to consider (as reported by The Wall Street Journal) is that the British telecoms have warned that the deadline to remove Huawei products from their networks could result in blackouts for customers. Personally, I think that’s going to negatively affect people, especially considering how many people are using the internet to connect with family members and to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled a new rule that that expanded U.S. authority to require licenses for sales to Huawei Technologies of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology.

The UK government’s decision that requires telecoms to stop buying Huawei equipment comes after the rule made by the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, the British the U.S. rule has raised questions about the quality of Huawei kit in the future.

The BBC reported that there are other political considerations that may have influenced the UK government to separate its telecom infrastructure from Huawei. According to the BBC, the UK wants to strike a trade deal with the United States. My assumption is that the U.S. might look more favorably upon countries that exclude Huawei than ones that do not.

The BBC also reported that there are growing tensions with China over China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its treatment of Hong Kong (which was once a British colony).


Nextdoor Removed the “Forward to Police” Feature



Nextdoor has removed the “Forward to Police” feature. The site, which people often use to get help finding a lost pet, is removing the feature as part of their anti-racism work. Obviously, people will still be able to use their phone to call the police if they are in danger or if they want to report a crime.

We have made the decision to remove the Forward to Police feature from Nextdoor. As part of our anti-racism work and our efforts to make Nextdoor a place where all neighbors feel welcome, we have been examining all aspects of our product. After speaking with members and public agency partners, it is clear that the Forward to Police feature does not meet the needs of our members and only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies choose to use the tool.

Previous to this change, Nextdoor stated that law enforcement agencies have had an additional feature that they can enable called “Forward to Police”, which allows a neighbor on Nextdoor to forward their safety post or urgent alert to local law enforcement. Nextdoor has now removed that feature.

Bloomberg CityLab reported that Nextdoor’s Forward to Police feature was introduced in 2016. It was added because police officers cannot view private neighborhood groups. The feature offered police departments a way to field neighborhood complaints directly without monitoring every post like a blotter. CityLab reported that “dozens of” police “departments across the country had signed up” for the Forward to Police feature.

The Root posted an article titled: “The Racist Nextdoor”, written by Michael Harriot. It provides plenty of examples of racism on Nextdoor. The article includes information posted on Nextdoor from people who described the racist things their neighbor’s posted on their local Nextdoor.

It is good that Nextdoor has removed their Forward to Police feature. There is plenty of evidence that racist people were using that feature as a means to harass and abuse people who aren’t white (including children). Allowing racist people to forward their complaints to police departments through Nextdoor is dangerous for the person that is being reported.

The removal of the feature means those who want to contact their local police department will have to do it themselves, by phone, where they may be asked for their names. Perhaps removing people’s ability to write racist things on Nextdoor anonymously,and then get the police involved through Nextdoor, will make neighborhoods safer.